Small British firm moves into a different league

01 January 2014, at 12:00am

Veterinary Practice visits the French headquarters of a pharmaceutical company now established in the UK

IN January 2013 the French company Sogeval acquired Alstoe, a British company based near York. This followed several years of a cross-distribution agreement.

Sogeval SA is a veterinary pharmaceutical and laboratory company that has been developing medicines and products for pets and livestock for over 30 years since its formation in 1978.

Based in Laval in France, it is now the animal health arm of the Sofiproteol Group, whose turnover in 2012 was €7.5 billion.

Sogeval itself employs 294 people – in France, and subsidiaries in the USA, Brazil, Denmark and the UK – and in 2012 its turnover was €86 million. Its first subsidiary opened in 2006 in Dallas, Texas, manufacturing products there under contract. The Danish operation at Arlbourg, Jutland, was created in 2011 to cover the pig market, and subsequently pet products were introduced. Sogeval Brazil started in September 2013. Expansion plans include spreading into other Nordic countries.

Products are distributed in more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America, with 50% of sales made outside France. Sogeval is a leader in antibiotics in France and a leader in topicals, such as shampoos, in the USA.

In France, the company employs 230 people, including a partnership with an Association of Disabled People: since 1994 Sogeval has had between 10 and 20 members working for them full- time. This is not a usual practice in France and something of which Sogeval is very proud. 

In Laval there are five sites with ultra-modern GMP-certified facilities covering 6,000 square metres, comprising R&D (1,000sqm) employing 25 people including regulatory affairs, and four manufacturing plants for liquids (hygiene and shampoos), medicinal powders and tablets, as well as housing the firm’s head office.

It has production expertise in three dosage forms of tablets as well as oral powders, medicated premixes and non- sterile liquid forms, with all manufacturing working within a controlled environment. There is a production area dedicated to â-lactamine and hormone-based products.

Traceability is the firm’s main principle in manufacturing and it operates a system of complete monitoring and tracking of each batch at every step of the manufacturing process with validated processes on qualified equipment. All ingredients are processed to ensure they are all of the same particle size with stringent procedures in production to prevent the risk of cross-contamination.

The factory can produce 150,000 tablets an hour and has the capacity to produce 500 million tablets a year. On the packing line, a machine even takes photographs of the process to ensure there are no broken tablets. A new plant will open this year for medicated pre- mixes.

“We are proud of our know-how to produce easy-break tablets – a first on the market,” says Jean-Pascal, companion animal marketing manager. “The four-piece breakable tablet, Dolagis, that you press once to halve and twice into quarters, giving equal sizes for accurate and precise dosing, was developed by Sogeval.

“Indeed, Sogeval is constantly developing and sharing with its customers solutions to improve daily routines by offering better results. We now offer a wide range of products for dogs and cats that are easy to administer, for example special shaped oblong tablets for cats have been introduced. For the veterinary market there is the need for tablets to have good flavour, be a good size and texture and they have to be chewable.” 

The pet product ranges comprise: antibiotics (it is a leader in France for oral antibiotics for cats and dogs); nutritional supplements (second in the French market for cats and dogs); dentistry (first in the oral hygiene French market with the the Prozym range); pain management – such as Vetergesic, a new therapeutic area invested in by Sogeval to manage chronic pain, osteoarthritis, and pain during/after surgery); dermatology – the Douxo range (second in the French market and first in the US dermatology market); and the cardio-nephrology range, with medicines for heart disease and kidney problems, including renal failure in cats.

Producing solutions

For livestock, the company has developed both preventive and curative therapies, adapted to the constraints of modern livestock farming, as well as products for pigs and poultry for the prevention and treatment of major pathogens. The first disinfectant/insecticide/biocide Mefisto Shock, launched in France in 2013, was added to the farm biosecurity range of TH5, TH4 and Mefisto.

“In the farm sector, requirements are changing. involving a reduction in antibiotic use but still maintaining levels of welfare. So there is the need to produce solutions,” states Niall McFerran, country manager for the UK and Ireland.

“Sogeval was the first to use paracetamol (Pracetam) in pigs to reduce fever. Water soluble products will be required as in-feed antibiotic use declines. There are also water soluble vitamins, to help reduce stress in poultry and we hope to launch this range into UK.”

With regard to antibiotics, there are four products within the registration process and these are expected to be launched very shortly.

“Sogeval is a company designed for vet use, offering innovative solutions especially for vets. It’s the products and the support that will determine our success. You will see a consistent and regular programme of new product introductions and new ideas,” says Mr McFerran.

“I would put our management team up against any. We were a small company, but we are now in a different league. In the UK, we are building a strong technical back-up of three vets, headed up by our new technical director, Andy Forsyth.

“Our UK team is being strengthened to give better levels of technical, sales and marketing support. We will continue to offer in-practice training and education packages.”

He continues: “We undertook a customer survey in the UK and Ireland and found – no surprise – that vets want products that work, are easy to use and are of good value.

“But our survey found that of patients on long-term therapy, 84% gave up by the end of the first year. All of our oral pharmaceuticals are flavoured to improve compliance. And the four- way break tablet design allows for greater dose flexibility, which is a huge improvement. Two Sogeval tablets won the Icatcare easy-to-give award 2013, of which we are very proud.

“The goal of Sogeval UK is to become a leading player for pet and farm sectors. And we have the expertise, the products and the team to achieve this,” he says.